For any college golf program, having a U.S. Amateur champion from your program is a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal for a program in what some would classify as a mid-major school.
That certainly is the case for Tennessee-Chattanooga following the victory of senior Steven Fox at the 112th U.S. Amateur Championship Aug. 19 at Cherry Hills Country Club near Denver.
“We’re a mid-major program; that’s what we are,” Chattanooga coach Mark Guhne said shortly after Fox rolled in a downhill, twisting 15-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole (37th) and defeated California junior Michael Weaver for the title. “So to have a U.S. Amateur champion is phenomenal. To have someone put your school on the map is awesome.”
In this case, though, the rewards and impact go beyond that of just the school. The win by Fox generated excitement and enthusiasm around the state and within its top political leaders.
Thursday, Aug. 23, was declared Steven Fox Celebration Day on the Chattanooga campus. Faculty, staff, students, coaches, teammates and well-wishers turned out for the festivities, and so, too, did some very important state officials.
I mean, how often do you have a U.S. senator and governor, along with the top tier of school administrators, turn out to honor a golfer? Not very often, I can assure you, no matter how big a school it is.
They did for Fox on this Thursday afternoon.
School Chancellor Roger Brown got things started and then turned the microphone over to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga. From there, Gov. Bill Haslam took center stage for a few words before turning things over to interim Athletics Director Laura Herron, who then brought Joe DiPietro, the University of Tennessee system president, to the podium.
After Guhne gave a short speech, Fox took over and in his very humble manner, thanked coaches, teammates and everyone and anyone involved and/or in attendance.
Fox thanked coaches Guhne and assistant Ben Rickett, who was Fox’s caddie for the final 19 holes on the last day at the U.S. Am, and then followed with thanks to women’s coach Colette Murray and the men’s and women’s golf teams.
Then, he put his notes down and got quite emotional as he turned his attention to his family. His father Alan, who was his caddie all week until those final 19 holes, his mother Maureen and sisters Ashley and Kristen were on hand as he gave a tearful thank you for what they have meant to him and how they all share his success.
Yes, it was quite a day for the 21-year old from Hendersonville, Tenn.
And to think, when this year’s U.S. Amateur started, he was just one of the “unknowns” in the starting field of 300-plus.
Now he’s a U.S. Amateur champion, and his name will be engraved on the Havemeyer Trophy along with the likes of Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, to name a few.
Throughout the U.S. Amateur week, Fox used the word “unreal” to describe just about every experience he was going through.
Chalk up yet another to go on the list.
Steven Fox Celebration Day. It was real and certainly well deserved.